Earlier this year, a Republican judge facing re-election this November seemingly helped lead the charge in attacking a fellow Republican and succeeded in having him fired from the very job voters hired him for.
In a closed-door meeting on February 20, the district judges of Tarrant County fired Republican District Judge Alex Kim from presiding over cases involving Child Protective Services.
Kim is the judge who saved the life of baby Tinslee Lewis, who is still alive today despite arguments with Cook Children’s Hospital.
Only Judge James Munford of the 322nd District Court and Judge Chris Wolfe of the 213th District Court joined Kim in voting against his firing. Judges Ruben Gonzalez, Elizabeth Beach, Don Cosby, Josh Burgess, and Megan Fahey were not present.
Local Administrative Judge David Evans, who sources allege was targeting Kim for making CPS follow the law, said this was “in the best interest of the system.”
But another Republican judge seemed to have helped lead the charge against Kim.
On February 12, eight days before the district judges’ meeting, Kim wrote a letter to his fellow district judges, laying out the potential consequences of removing CPS cases from his court and transferring them to the Family District Courts in downtown Fort Worth.
“It is being suggested that this action is being done because Alex Kim ‘stands up’ to Child Protective Services,” Republican Judge Patricia Baca Bennett of the 360th District Court wrote. “To suggest that a judge ‘stands up’ to a litigant that stands before him is to suggest that the judge has an interest in the outcome of the matter and will engage in judicial activism.”
Because CPS is going through a privatization process initiated by the Texas Legislature, Kim argued in his letter that moving the cases could “create a significant barrier to providing quality services to foster children in Tarrant County.”
“Problems with the transition only increase the likelihood of parents being terminated of their rights, children spending more time in the foster system, and reduced family reunifications,” Kim warned.
He listed other possible issues, such as disruption of family court dockets, longer wait times for jury trials, and empowering delay tactics from attorneys.
“It is my understanding that the downtown family courts have an overwhelming caseload,” Kim wrote.
“The Family District Courts do maintain busy dockets,” Bennett answered. “I am well aware of my docket, and I believe that I can handle the cases that are assigned to the 360th.”
She also challenged Kim’s data that the wait time in his court for a CPS case to go to trial went from over 520 days in January 2019 to 275 days in January 2020.
“The Board should be reminded that these are the number of days that the children are in foster care,” Kim wrote as he outlined the decrease in wait time.
“While I don’t disagree that we need to remove children from foster care and place with parents and/or relatives as soon as is possible, I don’t want to look at raw numbers to determine efficiency,” Bennett argued.
She went on to say that parents with issues like drug addiction need time in order to meet the criteria of being able to “provide a safe and stable home for their children if and when they are returned,” and continuously moving children from home to home due to “failed reunifications or placement also creates a great deal of chaos in a child’s life.”
The last two points Kim listed were positive consequences of firing him, which Bennett supported: First, it would free him up to focus more on juvenile cases. Second, if the Texas Legislature raised the age of culpability to 18 years of age, Kim’s caseload would rise to unbearable levels. In a follow-up letter, Kim states that after speaking with State Sen. John Whitmire (D–Houston), he wasn’t certain the legislature would do that.
“I believe that paragraphs 15 and 16 of the Judge Kim letter each show, that despite the ire of Judge Kim’s supporters, Judge Kim seems to see the benefit to this plan,” Bennett wrote.
On February 22, Texas Scorecard pointed out to Bennett she was the only one to write a document against Kim.
“I didn’t write a document against him,” she replied. “I wrote a document that clearly set forth my position.”
Early voting begins on October 13 for the November 3 election. Concerned voters may contact Judge Bennett.
Judge Patricia Bennett: 817-884-2708